Student Interest in Family Medicine Improves But Slows After Two Years of Increases

Friday, March 16, 2012


LEAWOOD, Kan. – Interest in family medicine held steady among graduating medical students this year, according to the 2012 National Residency Matching Program results released today. This year, family medicine residency training programs this year attracted 1,335 U.S. medical school graduates to the specialty — up 18 over 2011.

Known as the Match, the program aligns graduating medical students with residency training programs in specialties they want to pursue. In this year’s Match, the total number of students choosing family medicine — which includes U.S. medical school graduates and international medical graduates — was 2,611 compared to 2,576 in 2011. This year’s “fill rate” is 94.5 percent, up slightly from the 2011 rate of 94.4 percent.

This year’s results are a disappointment after two consecutive years of increased medical student interest in family medicine, according to Glen Stream, MD, MBI, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“Family medicine is the foundation of health care and is integral to ensuring that Americans get the care they need, when they need it, from the most appropriate health are professional,” he said. “That entry into the health care system begins with the family physician.”

Provisions of the Affordable Care Act — such as the Primary Care Incentive Program and pilot projects that support the patient-centered medical home by paying for quality of care and the administrative costs of coordinating care — are designed to encourage more medical students to become primary care physicians, according to Stream.

“These incentives are a good beginning, but we can’t lose momentum. We need to double down on programs that generate student interest,” said Stream. “Today’s students have to overcome barriers that are ingrained in the system. But we know what needs to be done to reform the system and ensure Americans have access to a primary care doctor.

“Now is the time to reform the medical education infrastructure, tear down the barriers to students who want to become primary care physicians, and establish a practice environment that ensures that young primary care physicians can build successful practices that serve the needs of their communities.”

AAFP’s recommendations for building the primary care physician workforce to meet the nation’s needs.

  1. Identify medical schools that serve community need.
  2. Reform graduate medical education funding.
  3. Increase support for programs such as Health Professions Training Programs (Section 747 of Title VII) and National Health Service Corps.
  4. Close the gap between primary medical care and subspecialty care payment.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.  To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website,